Category: Weblogs

Department of Unintended Consequences

Here's Stanley Fish:

Commentators who explain smugly that O’Donnell’s position on masturbation (that it is a selfish, solitary act) is contradicted by her Ayn Rand-like attack on collectivism, or who wax self-righteous about Paladino’s comparing Sheldon Silver to Hitler and promising to wield a baseball bat in Albany, or who laugh at Sharron Angle for being in favor of Scientology (she denies it) and against fluoridation and the Department of Education, are doing these candidates a huge favor. They are saying, in effect, these people are stupid, they’re jokes; and the implication (sometimes explicitly stated) is that anyone who takes them the least bit seriously doesn’t get the joke and is stupid, too.

Sometimes I think of the political blogosphere as a huge commons.  An individual blogger can gain in readership or influence by attacking or ridiculing some enemy, but at the cost of making that enemy stronger in the world as a whole.

I also believe that every time the words "stimulus" or "fiscal policy" are blogged it helps the electoral prospects of the Republican Party, no matter what the content of the blog post.

Which requests do I not respond to?

BM has a request:


would you take a hand few requests (maybe 10 or so) from the comments here and tell us (in a word:'NO' or a short sentence why) you will NOT fill them?

I hope this request is excluded from your picks!

I won't handle those I have already written about and have no new insight on, those I will soon write about (I prefer for most of my non-blog writing to be relatively fresh), and those I have nothing to say about at all, usually because of my own lack of knowledge.  On top of that big pile, a small number of requests — small in percentage terms at least — strike me as best addressed by a quizzical, offbeat non-response.

I answer all the rest.

What your blogging style shows

Here are a few sentences to ponder:

Some commentators have suggested that the internet allows people to present idealised versions of themselves to the world. Contrary to that idea, Yarkoni found that bloggers' choice of words consistently related to their personality type just as has been found in past offline research.

More neurotic bloggers used more words associated with negative emotions; extravert bloggers used more words pertaining to positive emotions; high scorers on agreeableness avoided swear words and used more words related to communality; and conscientious bloggers mentioned more words with achievement connotations.

Can we all agree that the cited post represents a considerable success?  And might it apply to blog commentators as well?

Addendum: Arnold Kling comments.

The role of the blogosphere

New research supports the notion that we fixate on enemies, and inflate their power, as a defense mechanism against generalized anxiety.

The longer article is here.  This is another way of putting the point:

According to one school of thought, this tendency to exaggerate the strength of our adversaries serves a specific psychological function. It is less scary to place all our fears on a single, strong enemy than to accept the fact our well-being is largely based on factors beyond our control. An enemy, after all, can be defined, analyzed and perhaps even defeated.

In what way is blogging science?

Scott Sumner has a long and thoughtful post.  Here is one bit:

According to the Official Method, none of these tidbits matter.  But I have noticed that they have had some impact on my readers.  They are each slightly persuasive about some aspect of my argument.

It has to be read in the context of the longer post, but it's a very important point.  And this:

So that’s the goal of my blog, to constantly use theoretical arguments, empirical data, clever metaphors, and historical analogies that make people see the current situation in a new way.

Read the whole thing.  It's one of the best statements of how blogging can make a difference; just don't call Scott a blogger…